At first, there were designers and developers. Then there were generalists who both designed and developed. Today, most companies (and design agencies) no longer want to hire generalists aka the jacks of all trades. They want niche pros with cross-industry skills such as UX design, graphic design. Plus they’re willing to pay top dollar for the right skillset.
So, as a designer, what does this mean for you? Should you try to just focus on one small niche of the industry, become a master in that niche and market yourself accordingly?
The answer is “yes” and “no.” Some niches are in such high demand that mastering just that one will help you secure a steady load of freelance gigs or a solid career growth, whichever you prefer. Other niches are in demand but paring them with other talents will ramp up your career prospects even more.
If you are a newbie in the field or feeling stuck in your current role, consider looking into the following design skills and niches that can advance your career.
1. UX Copywriting
Traditionally, there have been two distinct roles in website design. The designer who fashions the page layouts and the copywriter who crafts that engaging and compelling content.
Both roles are critical in a design that is going to attract and keep visitors. The layout is the visual positioning, along with color, typography, etc. The content is what is superimposed onto that layout. For a website to be sleek, inviting, and provide a great user experience, these two people must collaborate every step of the way.
Suppose, though, that these two roles could be combined into a single highly-skilled individual – someone with the artistic flair for the “art” of design and who is also a master wordsmith.
While you may not have seen the term “UX Copywriting” yet, large enterprises are already using it – Google, Amazon, Uber, and the likes. It’s only a matter of time before small and mid-sized companies see the value of these combined positions and begin to look too.
And what about salary? It looks as if it ranges from a low end in the mid-$80’s to as high as $130,000. If you’re a great designer already, start looking into some content marketing and creative writing courses to help you gain the necessary writing skills.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is a complex phenomenon. And it is constantly evolving, as Google continues to change and update its ranking algorithms. Companies are beginning to understand that web design is not an isolated part of their marketing. While it may be important from an aesthetic point of view, there are some pretty far-reaching consequences for SEO in the chosen design.
Is it mobile compatible? Google is rewarding responsive designs. Does the site load quickly? Is navigation easy? Do visitors stay awhile because the design is attractive, well laid out, and sleek? While content still matters to search engines, so does user experience. For instance, high bounce rate and low pages per session are both negative ranking signals for Google and can be attributed to poor navigation and page design.
Now consider this. Suppose you develop the expertise to have full understanding of new algorithms and what they mean for design. And suppose you can “prove” that expertise to a potential employer or design agency. Now you have a combination of skills that any company will see as highly valuable.
If you also develop niche expertise in content writing, you now have a “triple play,” – something that would be in high demand by small and mid-sized companies, at a minimum.
3. Exhibition Design
Trade shows and other face-to-face events are more prevalent than ever. Businesses are actively competing for the attendee’s attention with new generation trade show displays offering interactive booth components and advanced LED graphic illumination technology. These technology-driven exhibits often require someone capable of designing an experience with visual content for their kiosks. And you can become the person they will hire for that job if you brush up your skills a bit.
While exhibition design may not be a valuable standalone expertise, it can be a part of a repertoire of skills that you can develop and add to your resume.
4. AR/VR Skills
Virtual reality searches have grown by 300% during the past two years as new gizmos has entered the market. And businesses are already taking note as 360 ad videos have proven to generate higher user engagement.
Newer startups, in fact, are now building their entire UX on the pillars of AR and VR. Visitors are encouraged to “try on” glasses frames before going in for their eye exams and fittings; consumers can “visit” kitchens of restaurants they are considering, or amenities offered by resorts; they can swipe a wine label and take a virtual tour of the winery where it was produced.
While the AR/VR technologies were originally reserved for gaming sites, they are now becoming mainstream for marketing campaigns. It not only evokes visual fascination, but also improves the overall UX and delivers additional marketing hooks. When these kinds of experiences are given, the chances of users converting into purchasers increases.
If you can master AR/VR basics, you will have a valuable skill to promote yourself. The future is filled with mixed reality opportunities, so your demand as a professional will keep growing over time.
Once you have learned the technology and experimented with it, you can create some of your own effects. This includes shading and filters and add them to your portfolio for a potential employer to review. While this skill may not be valuable as a standalone, consider combining it with other design skills. This increases your potential value.
So these are just five of the cross-industry skills or combinations of skills that both companies and design agencies are looking for. More will come as technology continues to advance. But the overall point is this: The more niche skills you can add to your repertoire, the more demand there will be for you. Dig in, become more versatile, and you will be able to “write your own ticket.”
Nate is an entrepreneur, experienced digital marketer and founder of Indy Displays. He specializes in creative branding campaigns and trade show booth designs that generate positive ROI.
**The views & opinions expressed in this guest post are of the guest author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of the Design Roast community as a whole.**